The main key to being “fully present” with my children is working smart while at work. I am highly organized, which allows me to get through all the important tasks of my day quickly. For example, even with all my meetings and various activities of the day, I get hundreds of emails, but I get my email inbox down to less than 30 total emails every day before I leave work and go home to my family. That allows me to leave work and be fully present with them. It also allows me to start every workday fresh and ready to tackle anything as I don’t have yesterday’s activities hanging over my head.
As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Jessica Hawthorne-Castro. Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is CEO of Hawthorne. Jessica has strategically positioned the agency to be at the forefront of advertising, where art meets science. She is committed to providing data-driven solutions and proprietary tools to help clients maximize their advertising investment dollars. From creative and production to strategy, media and analytics, Jessica ensures quality and innovation throughout all disciplines of the agency. As CEO of Hawthorne, Jessica has prioritized company culture and corporate social responsibility and is a Climate Change Reality Ambassador. Today, Hawthorne is a certified woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), a Great Place to Work®, and on the Inc. 5000 list. In addition, Jessica has received many awards for her career accomplishments, including: Ernst & Young (EY) “Entrepreneur Of The Year” winner in the Transformational Leader category, Greater Los Angeles; the 2019 “Elite Marketer” in the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Most Influential Marketers in Southern California; “Women to Watch” for the “Marketing Hall of Femme” Direct Marketing News; “Women’s Summit Awards Nomination” by Los Angeles Business Journal; “Woman of Influence” by L.A. Biz and Biz Women; “CEO of the Year in Technology-Based Advertising” for the 2019 Innovation & Excellence Awards; “Female CEO of the Year in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations” & “Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year” from CEO World Awards; Marketing EDGE’s “Rising Star Award”; “Top 40 Under 40” by Direct Marketing News; Finance Monthly CEO Awards “Business Women of the Year” & “Monthly Game Changers Awards”; “CEO Global Award” CEO Today Magazine; and the and “Woman of the Year — Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations” & “ Young Female Entrepreneur of the Year” from the Stevie Awards. Hawthorne-Castro is an active member of her professional community. She is a member of the Forbes Agency Council and Ad Age’s Agency Collective, invitation-only organizations for senior-level executives in public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. In September 2017, she joined the ANA ECHO Board of Governors, the elite group behind one of the most coveted prizes in marketing and is the incoming Chair of the Board. Jessica is a participant in TED International, TED Women communities and Vistage International. She is also a member of Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), the global organization empowering more than 28,000 members in more than 130 countries and is the Chapter Chair for YPO Los Angeles and on the YPO Pacific U.S Regional Executive Board. When Jessica isn’t busy with the company, culture, and board participation, she enjoys spending time with family and friends and traveling the world (over 50 countries so far!). She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son and daughter.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Iwas raised in a small town in Iowa where strong family values and work ethic are ingrained in you. I appreciated that very much as it has definitely defined who I am and how I approach my work: no nonsense and never a complaint, you just work and don’t expect shiny stars or accolades for doing hard work. I then went to university at UCLA, and in my sophomore year, I started numerous internships that allowed me to explore various jobs within the entertainment industry, which led to my first professional career of becoming a Hollywood talent agent before I transitioned to the advertising industry.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
Starting out as a television literary agent in Hollywood, the transition over to the advertising industry was actually a natural fit as I had experience managing individual writers, directors and producers, and in advertising, I started managing entire brands and their campaigns. There was then another seamless, natural transition to operations/managing the company, where employees were now my clients and I worked on behalf of their best interests. Whatever I have done or worked on, whether it was for clients or now my employees, it has always been to better their lives and careers.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
It starts with an early rise as I get my son and daughter ready for their day and take them to school. Then, I have conference calls on the way to the office or attend early board meetings. My day consists of managing all aspects of the company, people, finances, strategy and planning, and meeting with people or clients all day or reviewing strategy or reports with my team members. I am also on several boards, so I am working on those strategic plans and events or attending industry conferences, board meetings and events as well during the day. Occasionally, I have an evening work event or travel but no matter what, I try to make them turn-around trips in 24–48 hours. It’s exhausting, but that is because I still try to be home every night to spend time with my children and husband and put my kids to bed.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
If you are gone too much, it can have a negative effect, and the child can feel neglected. On the flip side, if you are around but not fully present — on your phone or social media — or just generally burnt out so you take that negative attitude out on your children, that can have a long-term detrimental effect as well.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
My 7-year-old son actually says he likes that my husband and I both work, and sometimes we joke if we should stay at home with him instead, but he says, “Oh no, you need to go to work!” He likes his lifestyle and understands the benefits a working household bring him. If we work from home one day, he gets worried about us and asks us why we aren’t working and if we’re still going back to the office! Making children understand that money doesn’t grow on trees is important. They can see that we work to provide them the life they enjoy and allows us the ability to vacation and do other things together. Even though my husband and I work hard, we work harder to still be with them in the morning and evenings. We also make sure to break away for all mid-day important school events or sporting events. Weekends have always been “family days” so he never really feels that we aren’t around enough.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
- When I am home, I am not checking my email or phone. I am fully engaged with my son and pay all my attention to him. I work hard during the day to get everything done so that I am clear and 100% attentive to him when I am home. Working makes me happy and makes me appreciate the time I spend with my kids and so I enjoy every moment.
- Weekends are a special time for us, and we live them up! Whether we are traveling the world or spending time at home, running around to birthday parties, events or dinners, we cherish all time together.
- Every morning I take my son to school and walk him to his school chapel. We hold hands and talk about each day’s upcoming activities. I usually have to leave chapel early to get to a meeting, but I strike a balance to walk him into his seat, kiss him goodbye and tell him to have a beautiful day. From the sidelines, I stand with the other parents and say the morning prayers, pledge allegiance and then I wave to him goodbye while most other parents stay for the whole chapel. I don’t feel bad because it’s a compromise that I stay as long as I can before I get to work, and my son appreciates the effort that I’m doing my part as a working parent.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention? Please include examples or stories for each, if you can.
- The main key to being “fully present” with my children is working smart while at work. I am highly organized, which allows me to get through all the important tasks of my day quickly. For example, even with all my meetings and various activities of the day, I get hundreds of emails, but I get my email inbox down to less than 30 total emails every day before I leave work and go home to my family. That allows me to leave work and be fully present with them. It also allows me to start every workday fresh and ready to tackle anything as I don’t have yesterday’s activities hanging over my head.
- Being fully present while at a sporting event, not checking my phone and bringing the team snack once in a while is a good parent win!
- Vacations as a family and getting to nature support traveling together (where you really get to know each other 😊) and help make your child adapt to different environments seamlessly with the security of family.
- Taking your child to school, as simple as it may sound, is a wonderful time to bond in the morning and talk about the upcoming day’s activities.
- Putting your child to bed each night and telling them you love and support them as your last words will help them have sweet dreams and a deep sense of security.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
To me, being a good parent is making my children feel loved, that I will always be there for them no matter what and for them to have that security. For that reason, those are the last words I tell my son every night before he goes to bed — that I love him, and I will always be here to take care of him. He always smiles and goes to bed happy.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
My son likes magic, so taking his interests and translating them to fields of relevance like saying, “Science is like real life magic, and you could be a scientist and invent great things.” He also likes to help people so saying, “You could be a doctor and help lots of people,” gives him ideas that his interests can go in many directions to help humanity as a whole when he gets older.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
Success, to me, is having a great company that is a great place to work, is profitable and showing positive growth trends. If you’re not growing, you’re dying as a company. Then having your family happy and taken care of is a well-rounded picture of success.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
How I Built This podcast on NPR shows great stories of inspiring CEOs and entrepreneurs that defied the odds and built great companies.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There will always be mistakes in life, business and even when you embark on a plan, but it doesn’t come to fruition. But it is not the mistakes that you should focus on, it is the solution to how you will fix or overcome it. Essentially a lesson in resilience that you need to find the solution, keep trying and never give up.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am surrounded by CEOs of huge caliber, and I endeavor to continue to be a positive influence on how all these mammoth CEOs who, as a group, collectively represent GDPs larger than many countries. We can positively impact the world through corporate social responsibility, sustainability and making great companies that are positive work environments and affect the employees, which in turn better all those employees’ and families’ lives.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!